Youth from Big Island Lake Cree Nation to perform in dance showcase in Toronto
Nine youth from Big Island Lake Cree Nation are set to perform in Toronto in the culmination of a program designed to empower them.
Outside Looking In (OLI) is an intensive high school accredited program that uses the arts to build self esteem and teach life lessons to Indigenous youth.
Youth involved must attend school regularly, do their school work, behave well and be committed to working hard while in the program.
Students that meet these criteria over the year get a chance to be a part of the organization's annual show in May in Toronto.
WATCH | Big Island Lake Cree Nation youth prepare for dance showcase:
Big Island Lake Cree Nation — about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon — is one of 13 First Nations with kids in this year's OLI dance showcase in Toronto.
Deacon Lasas, a 17-year-old student from the Cree Nation, performed in last year's showcase and is looking forward to doing so again.
He said he made a lot of friends among the other student performers from across Canada and they've kept in touch. He's looking forward to seeing them again.
Lasas loves that dance offers him the opportunity to express himself. He said almost quit the group, as he was facing depression, but that his perspective changed once he performed last year.
He said OLI motivated him to focus on school work, and going to Toronto changed his outlook on life. He wants other youth to know they can do more than follow in other peoples footsteps — they can make their own positive choices.
"I wanted to try out dancing for myself," Lasas said during a zoom interview. "[I]t made me felt happy and I enjoyed myself."
Meaghan McGill, part of OLI's program team, has been working with the Big Island Lake Cree Nation youth. She said she has seen them change over the course of the year.
"[At first] they kind of [kept] to themselves — hoods up, masks on. Like they didn't do a whole lot," McGill said. "Now they're volunteering to put solos in their routine and they're like, 'I want to do an interview and all of these types of things.' So it's really cool just to see the impact that the program has had before the main event."
Lyttle Demarais, 17, from Big Island Lake Cree Nation is excited to be performing in the OLI showcase for the first time. She has danced for a while and loves being able to share the experience with friends.
Demarais said she is looking forward to going to Toronto and getting prepared for the show. She's proud to be representing her community and said she admires the choreographers she has been able to work with.
"It's a way to communicate with the crowd. Putting feeling into your body. It's not just dancing," said Demarais. "It's a whole different way to communicate and I just love learning about it."
The nine youth from Big Island Lake Cree Nation will spend two weeks in Toronto prior to the performance to prepare and get sized for their show costumes.
The youth will perform on May 12 for local students and families, and May 13 for the general public at Meridian Hall in Toronto.
Watch Big Island Lake Cree Nation's performance from last year's showcase: